Chemeketa Community College’s Woodburn campus held its third “Community Conversation” event last Wednesday, with nearly 50 community members providing input as to how the college can be more ingrained in the Woodburn community.

Cheryl Roberts, Chemeketa’s president who recently announced she accepted a job in Seattle, opened the event held in downtown Woodburn, asking, “How can we create a college-going culture in our county?”

Attendees split into groups to brainstorm answers to questions like, “Who needs to be involved?” “Where can collaboration help?” “What prohibits collaboration?” and “How can we overcome our obstacles?”

Some suggestions included engaging more parents, focusing on vocational training and collaborating more with the Woodburn School District. Susan Murray, dean of high school programs, pointed outby: LINDSAY KEEFER - Community members brainstorm ideas on how Chemeketa can better help Woodburn embrace a college-going culture. that the relationship between the two educational institutions is already very strong, especially when it comes to the school district’s Fifth Year Program, which allows students to delay graduation a year in order to earn college credits through Chemeketa for free. This impacts Woodburn’s graduation rate, with 22 percent of students taking part in the Fifth Year Program.

“And those students are at the top of the list for scholarships because they are great students,” Murray said. “Woodburn schools are the top of the line in terms of collaboration.”

Overall, organizers noticed a similar pattern in that there are many beneficial outreach programs already available to people, but they seem to operate in silos.

“Perhaps we need a central clearinghouse for information,” one community member LINDSAY KEEFER - Chemeketa President Cheryl Roberts share statistics with participants before the brainstorming session.

Another presenter noticed the lack of representatives from the agricultural, industrial and retail sectors at the meeting. Yet another pointed out that everyone needs to consider that today’s students are training for jobs that don’t even exist yet, with the ever-changing technology of today.

Roberts closed the event thanking the participants for their feedback.

“We pledge to collect this information and bring it back,” she said. “We know we can’t do this alone.”

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